What’s New for the 11th of June: Canadian roots music from Whitehorse, the story of our troll, The Neverending Session and other matters

Since the other members of Fall Down Dancing weren’t available for tonight, Miki had fallen back on the Wednesday night sessions at The Harp to find a couple of other players, enlisting Amy Scanlon on pipes, whistle, and vocals, and Geordie Riddell on fiddle and flute. Amy and Geordie often played together as a duo and all four of them shared enough material in common that the big problem in putting together the sets they needed for this gig had been in what to leave out. — Charles de Lint’s Forests of the Heart

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It’s not quite true that the Neverending Session has played continuously for centuries without ever letting the music stop, but I’m still gobsmscked as to when and where I’ve caught them playing when I really didn’t expect to, such as in the pumpkin patch one All Hallows Eve as set began to set. They were around a small male  child who was rather obviously expecting the arrival of someone soon. They were playing ‘The Pumpkin Dance’, a tune composed by the Red Clay Ramblers who play it here., when I wandered by.

And another time, I found them, or at least a splinter of the group, playing tunes composed by the late Micheál Ó Domhnaill of Nightnoise fame in the Library a bit past three in the morning with the only light being the light cast by the fireplace, so I  listended as they played on…

Now let’s see what I’ve got for you….

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Jack has a Diana Wynne Jones novel for us: ‘It’s a well written book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. Several pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the Kinrowan Estate Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Kathleen looks at an academic endeavour worth reading: ‘Charles Butler is the author of several fantasies for children (The Fetch of Mardy Watt, The Darkling, Death of A Ghost). He also teaches English literature at the University of the West of England. In Four British Fantasists, he surveys juvenile fantasy through the lens of his professional scholarship, in a detailed analysis of the work of four acclaimed modern writers. He has chosen Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper and Penelope Lively as his subjects, identifying them — with good reason — as shining examples of the modern Golden Age of children’s fantasy: inheritors of the traditions of both E. Nesbitt and J.R.R. Tolkien.’

Another fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

Books can get successfully turned into other forms as we see in a review by Vonnie of an interesting performance: ‘Ellen Kushner performed Thomas the Rhymer as a combination reading / musical performance at Johnny D’s, the synergy between the songs and the narrative was much stronger. The pauses, in particular, highlighted the words far better than the end of a paragraph on a page ever could. Kushner sang and played guitar, whilst Josef Kessler played fiddle and mandolin.’

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Denise digs into a CD/DVD set from Cats Laughing, A Long Time Gone – Reunion at MiniCon 50, and finds herself torn. What does one do if she loves the music, but feels the production could have been…better? Production wobbles aside, she’s a fan.’Anyone who enjoys folk-rock, roadhouse, or good ol’ Faire tunes will find their time well spent checking them out.’

Gary liked what he heard on a new release Small Town from American guitarist Bill Frisell. The prolific player of Americana and jazz this time teams up with double-bassist Thomas Morgan for a set of tunes recorded live at the storied Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. ‘It’s a sublime date, mixing modern standards with some Frisell originals and a few choice cover tunes,’ he says.

Gary also reviews another new live recording, this one of the Afro-Cuban All Stars on a magical night in Guanajuato, Mexico. The big band, he says, is ‘one of the world’s top purveyors of the Cuban music known as son, a catchy, folk-based music that combines Afro-Cuban clave with American jazz idioms.

Gary seems to have been reduced to a raving fanboy by the release of the 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of The Beatles’ landmark record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And to wrap things up, Robert takes a look at a group of warhorses — um, ‘concert hall staples’ — in a pair of recordings from Sony: ‘The idea of “meaning” in music is a complex one, the pursuit of which can go all sorts of places I don’t want to go right now. Suffice it to say that most commentators feel that relating music to some sort of narrative line is sufficient to address the question. . . . This leads naturally to discussions of “program” music, which is something we find reflected in everything from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to movie soundtracks, stopping along the way to encompass such diverse works as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, not to mention opera and ballet in general.’

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Our What Not this time is Gus in a letter to Anna describing a folkloric aspect of this Scottish estate: ‘There are everything from ashrays (sea ghosts) to wulvers, a sort of werewolf but, alas, no trolls in Scotland. There is however now a splendidly ugly and rather large troll under the bridge over the river that’s below the Mill Pond. How it got there is a story worth knowing which is why I’m telling you in this letter.’

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Finally, if nothing makes you feel better than a good sad song, you’re in luck! We’ll send you off with a lovely tear-jerker from the Canadian folk duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, who perform as Whitehorse. They play their song ‘Die Alone’ (it’ll be on their August 2017 release Panther In The Dollhouse) at Toronto’s legendary Massey Hall.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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